Monday, June 1, 2015

The big picture


A few months ago, I walked in on Annie admiring a framed picture.  The photo was of me and Paul smiling like oblivious idiots just six weeks before we tied the knot.  We were young, unburdened, innocent to the complexities of adulthood and child-rearing.  Annie looked up at me and asked, "Mommy?  How come you don't look like this anymore?"  I gazed down at the slimmer body and trimmer chin and frowned, stung by my daughter's harsh truth.  I explained to Annie that mommy has had some babies and that changes your body.  Mommy has also made some bad choices about what kinds of foods she's put into her body and how often she exercises.  I avoided her gaze, ashamed of myself for letting the stress of life get to me and terrified my daughter might be embarrassed by her portly parent.  Annie shook her head with a real sense of bewilderment.

"No, why don't you look like this anymore?"  She pointed again to the picture with her tiny finger. "Can you have this attitude again?"  My 19-year-old face stared up at me through the glass, eyes glistening with hope and excitement for the future instead of the constant dread I see in the mirror these days.  I carefully slid the picture out of Annie's hands and hid it away in the cupboard.  While choking back tears, I apologized to Annie and told her I can't be that girl again because I have changed.  I will try to be happy, but I can't get that unburdened innocence back.  This is part of growing up.  Annie seemed just as confused by this answer as she did by the first, but as she tried to ask again why I looked so different from my picture, my tears began to flow freely, and I asked Annie if we could talk about it later.

Weeks passed, and I thought about this conversation often.  I wished I could go back and tell that innocent 19-year-old how her life was going to be different than she planned so she could anticipate the changes a little better.  I mourned for myself and for this new me that I honestly hated some days, especially when the depression was so enveloping that I couldn't see any rays of positivity on the horizon.

One Sunday, I got out of the shower and blew my hair dry.  It was extra fluffy and unwieldy, so I pulled it up into a half-ponytail. When I descended the stairs, Annie looked up at me and gasped.  "Mommy!  I thought you said you couldn't look like that anymore."  I shot her a bewildered gaze.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

She pointed to the cupboard.  "Like the picture.  I thought you said you couldn't look like that anymore."

I blinked while my mind began to assemble the puzzle that is Annie conversations.  That whole time she had been talking about my hair?  She just wanted to know why I didn't wear it in a half ponytail anymore........?

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!

I had an existential crisis over a ponytail?!  I've been trying to deny my dramatic tendencies for years, but it's getting harder by the day.  Experiences like this aren't helping either.  At least one good thing came from my experience.  I'm learning not to assume so much or worry about things I can not change.  Oh, and I've started wearing my hair in a half ponytail again.

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